On November 22, 2017 from 21:30 to 23:00 CET a moderated conversation was held with Florent Castelnerac (aka Hylis), the Managing Director of Nadeo, where he fielded questions from the ShootMania community. HYPE organized and conducted the interview, with help from the mod team on SM Discord, eyebo, Rotsyx, Soprah, and the undercover mod minato (he was very helpful answering questions in the community chat).
Some of the up voted questions were duplicates or lacked clarity. An effort was given to simplify the questions, while maintaining the intent of each one. Due to time, not every question could be considered.
Below I've paraphrased the conversation. Note these are not exact quotes. If you want to read the full transcript, visit the #talkshow channel on ShootMania Discord server.
Question contributors: Monk9443, HYPE, Kenny, ChallengeSY, eFFecT, xzr, Dommy, Florenzius, Soprah, eyebo, Lady C, HAScrashed, Alexey, dreammyw0w, Shadow, Schwarz54, DiamondNerd, sbv, moimoi69, Gargan, energy, fab38 (maniafan), switchi, Nerpson, Spyro the Dragon, adsun, and Xen0m.
Questions presented below are in bold.
Answers/comments from Hylis in italics.
Thank you very much for joining us today and taking time to answer our questions and listen to our opinions. We highly appreciate that!
Hi! I'm really happy to be here. There has been a lot of missing communication, and this may be a way to help a little. I always feel honored to have players wishing to discuss with us.
In Hello Planet #6 (June 2016) a development cycle was mentioned there under the section "DATES". Is this still the plan? If so, is Nadeo on schedule?
It's what I wished to do, but not what we can do. The plan shows the importance of having a good rhythm. And while we tried to do it, that specific plan is no longer applicable.
When will the next Hello Planet come?
I don't intend to make another Hello Planet (blog post) at the moment. It's quite sad, since I liked the exercise of it. We were giving away a lot of information, which [committed/engaged] us to something, and in the end I'm not sure it was really useful. This year (2017) it was too difficult to do since our plan changed a lot.
However, [part of the plan] was perfect: telling just before summer what we were going to do, the team working on it, and giving a preview after.
The number of concurrent players online (players online at the same time) in ShootMania is shrinking, and that loss has been accelerated since the release of ManiaPlanet 4. Many modes are dead now. The rest are having a hard time staying alive. It is of great concern to many in the community that the game may not survive another year on its current path.
A lot of players love this game. Many that left have said it's the best game they ever played. But the amount of players is just too low to keep them motivated to play.
Yes, and the players that are keeping it alive just a little at the moment are really precious! Like in a fireplace, all you need to get the fire started again is to add more 'papers'. ^_^
In your opinion, what is the main problem facing ShootMania right now?
The main problem is simply that if 100 people join, less than 5 stay at the end of the month (not exact numbers - this is just given as an example).
So the main problem is, why is that so? I believe the game is not appealing enough to a larger number of people and [lacks] a deeper experience for many of them, somehow.
Some players feel that a F2P model may rescue the game and bring back popularity. Others disagree. What is your opinion on it?
It's a double edged sword.
I would rather have a game that's free where people stay, than a game where people form their opinion and then leave.
If the 'main' [or only] issue was the number of people, then [making it free] would be okay.
If there were more people at a given time and they left, even though they bought the game, I'm not sure they will [be more inclined to] stay when they didn't even buy the game.
So if they come and find it's not good enough, I'm afraid they won't come again. That's why it's a big double edged sword.
This is why I'm considering it [in some form].
And when I say F2P, for me it's Nations style F2P.
What are your plans to attract new players to ShootMania (and bring old players back)? How do you plan to keep players engaged with the game?Commentators note: "Nations style F2P" may reference Nations ESWC, which was free (or ad-supported by Nvidia?). Or it may refer to Nations Forever where there was a system with ads shown in-game on billboards and signs during races. Later, when the advertising stopped, a "freezone" system was introduced, with some restrictions, while continuing to allow access to all the major parts of the game (editor, multiplayer, solo). Those restrictions could be lifted by buying United Forever.
There is Shootmania and then there is Shootmania Storm. I have plans for both. I can't really talk about the plans for Shootmania. But the work we are doing for Shootmania Storm at the moment has the potential to help. There's no guarantees of course. It's more or less on the timetable we discussed earlier [from Hello Planet #6]. Beginning of next year we'll do some tests on new systems and then release them, while thinking of how to make a little momentum and engage additional players. We'll see how it goes from there.
What is something the community can do to help grow the player base?Commentators note: ShootMania is the game. Storm is a title/environment of ShootMania. It's like how Canyon or Stadium are titles/environments of TrackMania.
I think the community already does the most important thing, that some were not doing before: try to build, contribute, and talk about the good aspects of the game, instead of trying to shoot at it. Every game has things missing that other games have. It's endless. Shootmania has a lot of blind spots that we can discuss, but it should first and foremost be appreciated for what it already is. It's the same for people. We should first appreciate them for who they are.
Besides these things, I don't know how you [the community] can do better than what I [see] now. You are there, you do new modes, test new maps, new concepts, etc.
We appreciate you notice our efforts to keep the game alive.
What do you think is the best feature or unique thing about ShootMania that other games generally don't have?
There's quality in the physics/simplicity/deepness of the gameplay (and a lack of diversity at the same time). The creative tools are really unique and interesting. And it's still the best FPS eSport I have seen so far (from my perspective). Meanwhile, there are many big issues. But still, those are great qualities. Also, the players are some sort of proof of the quality of the game.
Is there anything you can tell us about this new system you mentioned?
There's around 5 to 6 people working on it, and it's about online services. If I start to talk about it, then I have to explain a lot about it. It's a 'big picture' [sort of thing] that can't really be seen in pieces.
Are there plans to advertise or promote the game?Commentators note: Perhaps we could have pushed for more details here. But we still had a lot of questions to get to. Maybe Hylis will expand on this topic of online services here in the forums when he has time. Otherwise we will find out more next year.
There is a design at the core of these services that provides an efficient way to promote the game. The decision to use it will first depend on how well we succeed in creating the services.
So yes, we would like to make a way to actively promote the game. But if the features aren't really working well, it may be counter productive to do it.
What is obvious for us is that one day, "Shootmania" will be promoted.
Shootmania is part of Nadeo.
I believe we built the toughest part. We had a lot to do.
The lack of popularity of the game can be compared to other top teams' lack of results. But I believe our first step is still a success for us.
A bit dark but imagine ShootMania gets to the point where the last players leave and absolutely no one is playing the game anymore. Would you stop working on ShootMania? Change your strategy? Or continue like planned and hope players come back?
No.Commentator's note: The next reply came instantly. Zero hesitation.
Shootmania will continue.
The studio is now 40 people strong. They're all [great at what they do] and here to contribute to the success of Nadeo. And the success of Nadeo is linked to the success of Shootmania.
And where do you see ShootMania in five years? What are your expectations and dreams?
We have a 5 year plan, but it's quite confidential (and sometimes changes).
My goal is that with the power of the players, Shootmania can't be beaten by other FPS games. ^_^
For example, PUBG is a game made by players, so is TF, CS, Dota, etc.
But we still lack tons of things to achieve this.
Will there be more environments for ShootMania in ManiaPlanet?
Like I said, I can't disclose things about "Shootmania" itself. I can say that we have 34 people working on [the next topics] that are deeply related to Shootmania. But that's really the most I can say.
While we try to optimize and learn things about Storm, thanks to the players, we are also building towards bigger steps. We need to aim for big steps.
Keep in mind that Storm was created into a much less efficient situation, much much less.
[Storm] was our first FPS, first "online game with collisions that required completely different netcode and anticheat", first platform while integrating on Steam. And then discovering everything that has to be discovered at Ubisoft while being a much smaller team and with much less experience about topics related to FPS.
It was a work on new types of blocks, new ways to make environments, new parts of the engine that required handling characters and animations, etc.
Will these plans be realized in ManiaPlanet or will there be a possible standalone version?
I can't say more. ^_^
My feeling is that it must be strong & clear. And I believe that a lot of people here [at Nadeo] share that vision. And in addition to this, it must be open to community power. So it should be the best of both worlds between Turbo & Maniaplanet. That's good, because we did both. ^_^
What is the future of ShootMania in eSports? Do you want to bring back the eSports scene? Or is the game mostly focused on casual play going forward?Commentator's note: Turbo is referring to Trackmania Turbo, a standalone Trackmania game released to PC and consoles in 2016. It was a simplified version of Trackmania with an easier UI, but also some unique features. A great party game. But it also lacked some of the power and features of ManiaPlanet. It's promising to consider the idea of taking the best of both worlds and going forward with "Shootmania".
Shootmania, like Trackmania, is designed to be the best in class for eSports in its genre. However, I think that making it only for eSports would be a huge mistake.
It also really depends on what you call eSports. And that could be a long discussion in itself. We have our own perspective on it, and it's often far different from the common views held by others.
So are there any plans for eSports events right now?
On Shootmania? From us? No.
Would you consider hosting official events on community-made gamemodes like Jailbreak, Golden Dunk, or Speedball?
What do you mean by "hosting official events"?
A Nadeo hosted or supported event.
If a mode would become much more popular than others on its own, and supporting a small competition on it could help its ground base to grow, then we would be happy to help. But there are many "ifs" there. For Paragon, we helped in a general way, and they were quite free to try things.
It's important that demo players can communicate with those who already play. Can the restriction on chat in channels be lifted?
I sent an email to tell the guys to do it. So I expect it to be done quite soon.
Are you planning to fix tech blue sprint paths? An update was pushed to mitigate the effect of the magnetic blocks update, but it still feels broken when you aim to the sides.Commentator's note: It was really surprising to hear this restriction will be lifted! Great to hear!
We are not working on the gameplay anymore. We tried to bring a new gameplay feature with the magnetic paths and it's a consequence of this. We tried to improve and reach a common ground, but we can not roll it back because of all that is included for magnetic purposes.
One guy ping spamming is enough to drive someone crazy. There are ways to hide the entire chat, and ways for admins to mute people in chat. But this is something different. Could a personal mute feature be added so that a player can ignore the chat and pings of another player?
Maybe. It would be a very hidden feature, perhaps in the profile menu, with an option to mute him. I can't give a clear answer without evaluating the time it takes. We just have a small stream of water. We should use it wisely.
Will the netcode be improved for the game? The jump from TMUF to TM2 was a huge improvement in netcode. A similar jump in performance would be most welcome, now that you have more experience creating a game with collisions.
I think we have a very solid approach on all these questions and that it's already good for Storm.
For Shootmania, we are working on stuff. If the discussion about the netcode is about lag compensation and other things, that's not a question of "improving", but changing the philosophy, and that's a 10 year long discussion.
Some users have expressed that they'd like the next update to be a complete overhaul of the UI with no leftovers from the older versions of ManiaPlanet.
We are working as much as possible to update the free experience by making it consistent and clear. We will not have the resources or time to update the whole of ManiaPlanet. That's the downside of having so many possibilities.
What about tutorials? When a new player loads up the game for the first time, they know nothing about the game. Probably most are unlikely to visit the forums or a wiki. Is there plans to add "tooltips" or some kind of "instructor mode" for the UI to explain how to use ManiaPlanet?
Again, we can't do it for ManiaPlanet. If the free experience is simple enough, there will mainly be the mode itself to be explained and that's more in the mode creators' hands.
The free experience should be clear enough. And if not, we could give tool tips or what is necessary to have a new player comfortable. Again, only if the small stream of resources allows it.
Our goal currently is really to have a clean free experience. [We want to] welcome them and help them reach the next step of really enjoying the game.
Are there plans to bring the teams feature back? And what about the tag system?
No, about the teams.
I'm not sure about tags. I have to ask for the tags feature to be done because I think it's really one of the key features of such platforms. But maybe other priorities will jump in and I'll have to decide.
I will investigate soon on how it's moving forward.
Are there any plans at all for a progression system (levels/lootboxes/perks,etc)?Commentator's note: The tags feature was a way to give another player (or yourself) a tag that would show up next to their name or in their profile in-game. They were used to award players after winning a competition, and for other purposes. Example:
We have work on a score system that keeps your best scores and grants you some sort of tags according to it. We'll see if we can roll it out as well. But it's challenging.
Will we be able to check titlepack rankings again anytime soon? Either in-game or on a website like the playerpage or maniaviewer?
I take it some players would really like to have it. I don't know. It should be.
One player wished to express his deep admiration for the last update (ManiaPlanet 4). He finds the push for continually opening up new possibilities and removing restrictions the game poses on creations unique and inspiring. But he believes there are restrictions and unfulfilled potential to unlock. He enjoys watching this process.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the community that we haven't asked about?
I'd like to say that I'm very happy you're around. I'd have you around as long as you're happy to be here. And I hope you come back from time to time to support us. We started Shootmania with zero players, and now have allies. So from that perspective, we're in a better place than where we started.
The team is probably happier now than when too many players were against them. We understand there are frustrations, and frustrations leads to anger. Now that we're all more calm, let's take time to slowly and surely move to the next steps.
The studio is in great shape, really super great. And I wish you all can be as well.
We created the [Shootmania channel] to gather more easily, with an agenda. It may be key to play together in the future as well, so I can easily frag you again. ^_^
I always enjoy going back to this gameplay, even if I also want all of this made better, deeper, richer, nicer, cleaner, stronger and even funnnier.
Thanks to all of you. And let's have another discussion in 2 to 3 months, to discuss about these online services that we are working on and how it can impact Shootmania Storm in a positive way.
13th of February would be cool for me.
It's a little far away, but that would make us closer to releasing the services ^^
Alright! Thank you very much again for your time! We really appreciate it. There is still a lot of unanswered questions, so it's cool you want to come back to us again soon! ^___^Commentator's note: Mark your calendars!
Thank you very much again for being here!
Yes thank you as well once again and good night.